Case Study: Boyd Cohen, Cofounder, IoMob

Please make sure that it is your own work. Please read the study guide. two pages length and APA 7th edition.

Book Reference:Neck, H. M., Neck, C. P., & Murray, E. L. (2021). Entrepreneurship: The practice and mindset (2nd ed). SAGE.

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Case Study Boyd Cohen, Cofounder, IoMob

For this assignment, read the case study below on (pages 253 and 254) of the eTextbook. Once you have read and reviewed the case scenario, respond to the following questions with thorough explanations and a well-supported rationale.

  • Which of the business plan frameworks would be the most beneficial for this new venture? Why do you believe that framework is the best choice? Support your answer with research.
  • Apply connections between business models and innovative thinking by suggesting a different revenue model for this organization. Interpret the connections between the described business model and your suggested revenue model to align with the selected business plan framework.
  • What evidence did you notice in Boyd Cohen’s planning that was innovative regarding the business model and creation of this venture?
  • IoMob is in its beginning. What do you think the venture’s future holds, and what factors will contribute to the new venture’s growth? What traditional business strategies and innovative business strategies would promote growth?
  • Analyze how a potential failure for this venture could increase the start-up team’s innovation skills.
  • What do you perceive to be the most significant risk for IoMob? Recommend two actions that will mitigate this risk.
  • Describe a viable business model and business strategy for IoMob.

Case Study Boyd Cohen, cofounder, IoMob

Boyd Cohen is the cofounder of IoMob, a decentralized mobility network and platform built on blockchain technology. IoMob democratizes access to the mobility marketplace, both public and private. “In other words, if you are a user and want to get from point A to point B, then we’ll give you a solution for the most optimal route, keeping in mind all mobility solutions available like public transport, bike shares, or taxi cabs. Any mobility service, even an individual provider, could be accessible by users through IoMob. We are not trying to be Uber. We are the anti-Uber,” Boyd explains.

Boyd Cohen, an expert in smart cities and shared mobility, got his PhD in Entrepreneurship, Internet, and Sustainability from the University of Colorado in 2001. It was around this time that he read a book on profitable, environmentally responsible business practices called Natural Capitalism, by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken. Being a die-hard capitalist at the time who worked for a big multinational consulting firm, Accenture, Boyd also enjoyed being in nature—mountain biking in the summers and snowboarding in the winters. Natural Capitalism inspired Boyd to view and use entrepreneurship as a medium to propagate positive change and bring these two worlds of capitalism and nature together. He dedicated his career both as an academic and an entrepreneur to this cause. Since then, Boyd has had a plethora of experiences, from starting companies, to consulting, to academia.

In 2011, Boyd wrote his first book, Climate Capitalism, as a sequel to Natural Capitalism along with one of the original authors, Hunter Lovins. At the time, the world was optimistic about Barack Obama’s administration making real progress on climate change at the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Frustrated with lack of action at both the national and international levels, Boyd started to view cities as potential agents for change. However, Boyd has been involved with making cities smarter since long before 2011. “Technically, I would say I’ve been in smart cities for over 12 years now. My first startup (2006), was a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution for cities to transparently track, monitor, and report their sustainability performance. Maybe we would’ve called them a smart cities project now, but in 2006 nobody was calling it that!”

In 2014, he and his colleague Jan Kietzmann wrote one of the most frequently cited peer-reviewed academic papers on shared mobility. Shared mobility refers to transportation services and resources that are shared among users, either concurrently or consecutively. This includes public transit; taxis and limos; bike sharing; car sharing (round-trip, one-way, and peer-to-peer); ride sharing (i.e., noncommercial services like carpooling and vanpooling); ride sourcing or ride hailing; shuttle services and “micro transit”; and more. Boyd believes that he has come full circle in his worldviews. Funnily enough, after writing a book (Climate Capitalism) that propagates using capitalism to tackle climate change and another book (The Emergence of the Urban Entrepreneur, 2016) that focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and smart cities, his third book, Post-Capitalist Entrepreneurship: Start-Ups for the 99%(2017), was geared toward what steps can be taken beyond capitalism to make the economy more inclusive. For the book, he interviewed an entrepreneur, Jamie Burke, cofounder and CEO of Outlier Ventures, a venture fund well known for investing in blockchain. As they started to talk, Jamie told Boyd that if he were to start a blockchain company, Jamie would help him incubate the company. “At first I wasn’t so sure. I mean, I was getting close to 50 and I’ve done several startups. I was sort of, kind of, enjoying my life as an academic. It’s not so easy being an entrepreneur. But the blockchain bug got me.”

Boyd knew that blockchain technology was a disruptive technology. As Boyd notes, “Digital currencies created through blockchain remove nation states and dilute the power of lobbyists and banks that are too big to fail. An alternative currency enables peer-to-peer transaction without involving its national governments. Similarly, blockchain can mediate peer-to-peer economies without the Ubers and the Airbnb’s in the middle.” Boyd feels that companies like Airbnb and Uber are platform companies that are not really sharing their “platform capitalism.” This prompted Boyd to research and think about business models that support a truer, peer-to-peer sharing economy.

Burke told Boyd that they were doing a lot of work on a newer type of peer-to-peer model called platform cooperativism, a cooperative ownership of the platform. For instance, Airbnb would not be owned by Airbnb but by the homeowners and users. Boyd started to look into creating a blockchain-enabled platform for the few taxi cooperatives in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, his hometown. These taxi co-ops were not big enough to compete with the likes of Uber and therefore could not expect the customer to download three (or more) different apps for each taxi service. So Boyd created an app called Coopify that focused on building tech stacks for these co-op businesses that did not have the expertise or confidence to invest in technology. However, Boyd noticed a bigger opportunity, which had the potential to disrupt the market. Every city has its own bike sharing, car sharing, and public transport services that use closed networks to compete with each other. Boyd saw a powerful opportunity to use blockchain to connect them all. He pivoted the business idea in November 2017 and started reaching out to advisors. IoMob was born.

Boyd leveraged his extensive network to find the best people to invite to be IoMob advisors. The first one to join was Susan Shaheen from UC Berkeley, one of the world’s leading experts on shared mobility and also sometimes called the “mother of shared mobility.” Knowing that he did not have the ability to do blockchain computing, Boyd started looking for a cofounder/CTO for the company. “To me, one of the most important success factors for an entrepreneur is to identify where you’re weak, where your team is weak, and convincing really good people who can fill that gap to join your team.” He soon found JosepSanjuas, a PhD in computer science, for the role of the CTO and got Victor Lopez, another computer science PhD, to join as the third cofounder. In late 2018, he resigned from his role as the dean of research at EADA Business School in Barcelona, Spain, to pursue IoMob full time. The company now has eight full-time people and two part-time people working on IoMob.

IoMob, as Boyd explains it, “is a decentralized mobility aggregation platform. IoMob stands for Internet of Mobility (inspired by IoT, or Internet of Things). Just like IoT, where different devices connected to the Internet can also be seamlessly connected together, IoMob does the same for mobility services through a digital layer. We connect every mobility service, public and private, into an open marketplace so that the end user has seamless access to discover, get multimodal routing, book, and pay for any mobility service you want through one open application connected to our marketplace.” A mobility startup that wants to enter a market crowded with players that already have big private network effects can use IoMob’s platform to reach out to customers.

IoMob leverages the blockchain ecosystem to create smart contracts between users, a function unique to blockchain. A smart contract allows any service provider to connect with customers (in this case, connected to the IoMob protocol) and charge whatever fees they deem fit, without the hassle of negotiating with the platform. Likewise, the customer can choose to accept the offer or not. This way, companies that offer their own mobility solutions can link to the IoMob platform to provide alternative modes of transport in case their services are unavailable. This might retain an existing customer base and help the other service provider monetize a customer he or she could not have had before. For example, if a bike sharing company has run out of bikes, it can link to the IoMob platform, which will then provide alternative transport solutions to the bike sharing company’s customers. Today, IoMob’s primary customers are governments and private operators. Boyd believes that mobility services such as Uber and Lyft would be the last ones to join IoMob’s platform, and even if they did, they would be providing the service of fulfilling the requests of customers who could not find another mobility option.

Instead of writing a business plan in the beginning stage of the company, Boyd and his colleagues wrote three white papers explaining the concept behind Coopify and, later, IoMob. Because the company is in the pre-revenue stage, Boyd and his team are now focusing efforts on testing the proof of concept in real-world settings. Apart from being a semi-finalist in the City of Tomorrow, Ford Motor Company Pilot Competition in Pittsburgh, IoMob has scheduled test sprints with the Public Transit Authority in Portland, Oregon, and is in talks with the Netherlands, Singapore, and big brands such as Hyundai.

Boyd feels that one of the challenges they might face relates to the mindsets of business providers. “Capitalists are likely to take more time to come to terms with a completely open marketplace where your competitors could potentially know your inventory. On the other hand, smaller players love this openness. It is a way for them to feel like they’ve overcome the barrier to entry in a market,” he says.

Boyd believes that mobility could either become monopolized by the likes of Uber or become a completely open mobility marketplace. A few multibillion-dollar OEMs, and car manufacturers who “see the writing on the wall,” want to partner with IoMob for the future that depends less on private vehicle ownership. Another challenge that Boyd has faced with IoMob is communicating the vision of the company to potential stakeholders like public transit authorities. Because both the technology and concept are new, governments sometimes have a hard time grasping the context and IoMob’s potential impact. However, over time, Boyd has tweaked the messaging to focus on the value proposition of IoMob as opposed to making it sound overly technical. “It’s been an evolution of our own understanding of how to tell the narrative and how to share it with different audiences,” says Boyd.

Boyd hopes to be able to leverage the billions of dollars being invested into blockchain technology to be able to scale up his operations successfully. To date, he has raised $700,000. And it’s not just about immediate scale, but also about preparing for the future. The mobility market is changing every day. Boyd believes that he has a strong team that can tackle these changes and adapt accordingly.

Early in March 2019, Boyd and his IoMob team were one of 10 startups selected out of 360 to join the Techstars Accelerator Program in Amsterdam. “Techstars has taught us we have not been disciplined enough with ourselves as founders and as a team to ensure that everyone knows what their priorities are and is tracking their progress on a weekly basis. After going through this process the past few weeks, we are going to do a similar exercise every week with our own team.” Additionally, Techstars introduced Boyd to a group of almost 90 mentors during the first 3 weeks of the Techstar program—it’s referred to as the “Mentor Madness” phase. Mentor Madness forced Boyd and his team to be more open than ever to tough, constructive feedback. “This type of tough feedback is essential to achieving our global ambitions,” said Boyd.

Boyd says that he has learned a lot of lessons through all his startup experiences. He reflects, “Don’t fall in love with your cofounder. Dedicate less time to fundraising and more time to create a quality product or a service. Do not outsource competitive advantage. Media attention is great, but it is very difficult to convert this attention into monetary sales.”


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